It’s hard to believe, but we’re well into the fourth quarter of the year already. Before too long we’ll begin the mad rush to capture and close as much business as possible prior to year’s end. Most businesses will be happy when this year has come to an end. When the year began, prospects seemed bright. January was promising, but February and March were looming, and it wasn’t long before things would be turned upside down. The impact of COVID-19 has caused many a business to rip up their business plans and focus on survival. Unfortunately, many of them won’t make it — unless you happen to manufacture cleaning supplies. In that case, this may be the biggest year in your history. But don’t get complacent, as the current market conditions won’t last forever.
Businesses are very much like living organisms. They adapt, they evolve, or they cease to exist. Of all the things we’ve experienced this year, the amazing adaptability of business might be of most interest. Think of how many businesses took on new products and targeted new markets as a direct result of the pandemic. Think of all the businesses that completely modified their employee working policies and are likely to retain them. Think about the change in working environment and style; the use of video conferencing and the realization that employment really is going to become mobile. Think about the impact on wardrobe and how many times one of your colleagues was inadvertently caught on camera in their dress shirt and undies. Yes, it’s been a very interesting year, to say the least.
As the days tick down towards 2021, we realize that the time has come to make our plans for next year. It’s time to create budgets. It’s time to decide what our goals will look like for the coming year and the strategies and tactics we will employ to make them a reality. It’s time to step away from the day to day business and allocate our time to something of great importance. It’s time to plan!
It has always amazed me that something of such significance is so often met with groans. Would anyone argue that building a well thought out strategic plan is one of the more important things a business leader can do? So why the consternation? If done effectively, business planning is not only one of the more critical elements of capturing business success, but it can be fun as well.
Is your planning a solitary endeavor where you ultimately emerge from your office declaring to have found the formula for spinning straw into gold? Do you plan as a group, cloistered for weeks, only to emerge with a plan after releasing the plume of white smoke? If this describes your planning process you may want to consider a different approach; an approach that opens the process to a wider audience and that empowers people to have a stake in the outcome.
By comparison to years past, this year’s plan needs to be more inclusive. It needs input from a wider audience. The plan needs to take into consideration the organization’s wide array of experiences as it grappled with the impact of this year’s business climate. And most of all it needs to be viewed as an opportunity to pull together an organization that has largely been “socially distanced.”
This year’s planning process doesn’t have to be characterized by a mundane approach to goal setting and tactical action creation. Mix in some team building. Assign parts of the plan to different parts of the organization and make it a competition. Reward teams that deliver the most innovative ideas or those that identify ways to branch into new business areas or better manage expenses. Use your planning activities to reset expectations and to get all personnel on the same page.
As 2021 approaches, and the impact of COVID-19 lingers we are all being forced to think differently about our industry, our business, and our future. I can’t recall a year where business planning will be of greater importance or have greater meaning.
So, take the time needed to seriously consider how your business can thrive in the “new normal.” Take the time to think differently about your business and your industry. And take the time to work with your employees to solicit their involvement and give new meaning to the traditional planning process. Your success may very well depend on it.